VA is testing new program to reduce veterans' wait times - We Are The Mighty
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VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

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Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

The Marines of Hotel Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines had a pretty rough Vietnam deployment as they patrolled through the violent streets of Hue City. They managed to kill several enemy combatants all while sharing a few laughs — and a Da Nang lady of the night.


But did you ever think about where they all might be today?

Well, we look into it and here’s what we found:

Related: 7 ways to prove your spouse is a spy

FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.

Joker

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Joker on patrol. (Source: WB)

After being the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill, Pvt. Joker eventually finished out his tour of duty and moved to Southern California. He began dating a single mother who sold and smuggled marijuana into the country for a living.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Unfortunately, their love didn’t last more than a year or so. Joker then decided he needed another career change and became a scientist. Although his brilliance dominated the secret laboratory where he worked, one of his creations ended up escaping, prompting a massive manhunt.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Animal Mother

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A man of few words (Source: WB)

This Marine machine gunner made an interesting career change after the Vietnam war ended. Apparently, the Marine Corps didn’t need his explosive trigger finger during peacetime, so Animal Mother moved onto the 1st CivDiv. After a few months of not getting into any fights, the commander of Area 51 got ahold of him and offered him an officer commission in the Air Force. He took it.

Luckily for him, aliens attacked earth, and he got to get back into the sh*t — where he belongs.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Take that you damn soda can. (Source: Screenshot from “ID4”  Fox)

After helping to defeat earth’s unwanted guests, he went where the action is and joined the Navy. Eventually, he became the XO of a naval destroyer as a pandemic killed off most of the world’s population.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Gomer Pyle

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Hey, Joker. (Source: WB)

You probably thought Pvt. Pyle blew his brains out while sitting on a toilet after shooting his drill instructor, but you’re wrong. In fact, the bullet he shot himself with missed the brain’s vital structures, and he just suffered a skull fracture, along with a concussion.

After several hours of surgery, the doctors managed to save Pyle’s life, but he’d never be the same again. He got even crazier if you can believe that. Years later, a hot FBI agent pursued him after a string of kidnappings.

She busted him, entered his mind and found out about all the twisted sh*t he’s been thinking.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

After the hot FBI agent busted him, Pyle faked his death and escaped to an island where genetically engineered dinosaurs now roam. But he got greedy and ended up getting eaten by a velociraptor.

Nobody liked him anyway.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Gunny Hartman

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Gunny’s classic stoic look. (Source: WB)

After putting countless recruits through intense training and amusing hazing, Gunny was indeed murdered by Pvt. Pyle. But since the Marine Corps never dies, Gunny found a way to f*ck with people from beyond the grave.

Yup, you guessed it. He became a freaking ghost.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

What cast of characters would you like us to track down next? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China warns foreign ships: ‘steer clear or you will pay’

The US Navy and regional allies have reportedly noticed an increase in Chinese radio queries to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea — some said to be less than friendly, and others actually threatening.

“Leave immediately,” Chinese forces in the disputed Spratly Islands warned in early 2018 when a Philippine military aircraft flew close to a Chinese outpost, The Associated Press reported July 31, 2018, citing a new Philippine government report.


“Philippine military aircraft, I am warning you again, leave immediately or you will pay the possible consequences,” the report said the Chinese forces threatened soon after, according to the AP.

In the latter half of 2017, Philippine military aircraft patrolling near contested territories received at least 46 Chinese radio warnings, the government report says, according to the AP. While these warnings have traditionally been delivered by Chinese coast guard units, they’re now thought to be broadcast by personnel stationed at military outposts in the South China Sea, the news agency reported.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

US Navy destroyers.

(US Navy photo)

“Our ships and aircraft have observed an increase in radio queries that appear to originate from new land-based facilities in the South China Sea,” Cmdr. Clay Doss, a representative for the US 7th Fleet, told the AP.

“These communications do not affect our operations,” he added, noting that when communications with foreign militaries are unprofessional, “those issues are addressed by appropriate diplomatic and military channels.”

The Philippine military tends to carry on with its activities. “They do that because of their claim to that area, and we have a standard response and proceed with what we’re doing,” Philippine air force chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Rio Kintanar Jr. told the AP.

Though an international arbitration tribunal sought to discredit China’s claims to the South China Sea two years ago, China has continued to strengthen its position in the flashpoint region.

In recent months, China has deployed various defense systems — such as jamming technology, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and even heavy bombers — to the South China Sea, leading US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in June 2018 to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the waterway.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

An EA-18G Growler takes off from a flight deck .

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ethan J. Soto)

Beijing, however, argues that it has a right to defend its sovereign territory, especially considering the increased frequency of US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations in the area; it has conducted more than half a dozen since the start of the Trump administration.

Despite Chinese warnings and objections, the US military has repeatedly made clear that it will maintain an active military presence in the South China Sea.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told the AP in February 2018.

The US military has also expressed confidence in its ability to deal with China’s military outposts in the region should the situation escalate.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters in Ma 2018, adding: “It’s just a fact.”

In early 2018 the US disinvited China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from participating in 2018’s iteration of the multilateral Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises, citing what it characterized as alarming Chinese activities in the South China Sea. The Philippines has at least twice raised the issue of radio warnings with Beijing, the AP reported July 31, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

There was no shortage of heroes in the Vietnam War. Whether fighting in the pitched battles of the Ia Drang, in Hue City, or in the skies above, American troops served with valor.


Here are four lesser known heroes of that conflict:

1. Drew Dix — U.S. Army

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
President Johnson poses with four U.S. servicemen to whom he presented the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam. Left to right: Navy Lt. Clyde E. Lassen, Marine Maj. Stephen W. Pless, President Johnson, Air Force Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson, and Army Staff Sgt. Drew D. Dix. January 16, 1969. (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

Maj. Drew Dix holds a unique place in military history. He was the last of four men from the city of Pueblo, Colorado, to receive the Medal of Honor and he was also the first Special Forces soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.

If there is indeed “something in the water,” as President Eisenhower said, then Dix must have had more than his fair share. Dix first enlisted in the U.S. Army hoping to join Special Forces but had spent three years in the 82nd Airborne Division before being accepted.

By 1968, Dix was a Staff Sergeant serving as a Special Forces advisor in Vietnam. On January 31, 1968, the first day of the Tet Offensive, Dix was stationed near Chau Phu when the city was attacked by two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions.

Supervising Vietnamese soldiers, Dix led his small group on an attack into the city. Receiving information that civilians were trapped, Dix systematically, and sometimes single-handedly, attacked multiple buildings, killing or driving out enemy forces and rescuing some fourteen civilians from the battlefield.

Over two days of fighting, Dix, while leading his small group, was also credited with fourteen enemy killed and possibly as many as 25 more while capturing a further twenty enemy.

2. George “Bud” Day — U.S. Air Force

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Col. George Day’s story starts the day his F-100 was shot out of the sky over Vietnam on August 26, 1967.

Then-Major Day was leading a Misty Forward Air Control flight when his plane was crippled by anti-aircraft fire. He ejected but was badly injured in the process. Not long after reaching the ground, he was captured and taken to a small POW camp.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tricked the guards and made a break for it into the jungle.

Despite his injuries, and incurring more, Day traveled south towards the DMZ. He survived on berries and raw frogs. He made it very close to American lines but was unable to signal several American planes overhead.

Suffering from delirium, he began wondering aimlessly until he was recaptured by the Viet Cong who shot him in the hand and leg in the process.

Once in captivity, Day offered nothing but maximum resistance to the enemy and kept the faith with his fellow POWs. Along with receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery in escape and resistance also received the Air Force Cross for his staunch refusal to cooperate.

To date he is the only man to receive both awards.

3. Jay Vargas — U.S. Marine Corps

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Jay R. Vargas, USMC (retired); recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Col. Jay Vargas was a Captain leading Company G, 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines, when he assaulted the village of Dai Do on May 1, 1968.

The previous day he had already received painful wounds but had refused to be evacuated. Despite his wounds and a large volume of enemy fire, Vargas successfully maneuvered his company and two others through open ground to gain a foothold in the village.

When his men became pinned down, Vargas personally led the relief effort and then led the attack into the village. Wounded for a second time, Vargas again refused to be evacuated and continued the fight to ensure that the objective was secure.

No sooner had Vargas secured the perimeter than enemy counterattacks and probes began, but the Marines held through the night.

After receiving reinforcements, the Marines again went on the offensive. When a massive enemy counterattack threatened to drive back their position, Vargas remained in the open, offering aid and encouragement to the beleaguered Marines.

He was then hit for a third time in as many days. Ignoring his wounds once again, Vargas continued to lead his Marines until he saw his battalion commander go down.

Charging through a hail of gunfire, Vargas successfully evacuated his commander to safety before rejoining his Marines and reorganizing their defense.

For his actions over those three days, Vargas received the Medal of Honor.

4. Thomas Norris – U.S. Navy

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Lt. Thomas R. Norris and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nguyen Van Kiet. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor and Kiet was recognized with the Silver Star. (Dept. of Defense)

On April 2, 1972, an EB-66 carrying Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down near the DMZ and right in the middle of the North’s Easter Offensive. Hambleton’s extensive knowledge of critical information made him a high priority for rescue.

However, efforts by air led to the loss of additional aircraft and more airmen killed. Finally, an attempt by ground was ordered.

The man in charge of the mission was U.S. Navy Seal Lt. Thomas Norris. He initially led a five-man team into hostile territory and was able to recover another downed flyer, Lt. Mark Clark – son of WWII General Mark Clark, who had been shot down searching for Hambleton.

Norris then led another mission but was unsuccessful in locating Hambleton. With time running out Norris devised a daring mission.

Norris, accompanied only by a South Vietnamese Commando, Nguyen Van Kiet, disguised themselves as fishermen and traveled deep into enemy territory. Patrolling through enemy infested jungles, Norris was able to locate Hambleton.

He loaded Hambleton into their sampan and covered him with bamboo and successfully navigated their way back to American lines while evading North Vietnamese patrols.

Just as they were reaching their base, they came under intense enemy fire, which Norris neutralized with a well-placed air strike.

For his highly successful, highly classified mission Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor. Nguyen Van Kiet became one of the few Vietnamese to receive the Navy Cross.

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Wounded veterans helped amputee victims of the Boston Marathon bombing

The Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three and wounded 264 others. The attack was committed by two American brothers of Chechen descent who set off a couple of pressure cooker explosives they learned to make from an English language al-Qaeda magazine. One of the brothers died after the other brother ran him over with a stolen SUV following a shootout with law enforcement. The other brother is in prison, awaiting execution.


At least 14 of the the bombing victims required amputations. Anyone who undergoes amputations of limbs for any reason will go through the five psychological stages of grief, but 20-22 percent of all amputees will experience some form of post-traumatic stress, according to studies from the National Institute of Health. For the civilian victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, their stress is coupled by the two explosions, just 12 seconds apart, that killed three, injured scores more, and took one or more of their limbs.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

The aforementioned studies show the ability to cope with an amputation be affected by pain, level of disability, the look of the amputated limb and associated prosthetics, and the presence of social supports. The 14 amputee survivors of the bombing received a ready network of support from wounded warriors, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who lost limbs during their service. Within days of the attack, injured veterans arrived in Boston to meet the survivors.

“We felt as amputees compelled to get out here,” said Captain Cameron West, a Marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan. “It won’t define them as a person … soon all of them will be able to do everything they could before the terror attack.”

“Military combat veterans are not the only victims of PTSD,”  said Dr. Philip Leveque, a pharmacology researcher, WWII veteran, and author of “General Patton’s Dogface Soldier of WWII.” “Civilians in a horrific event like those in Boston will not only be victims of these events but may be mistreated by their physicians with morphine-like drugs, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs, which can cause adverse side effects, including suicide.”

Chris Claude is a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Pennsylvania. He met with marathon amputees and  told the Associated Press it was his chance to provide the kind of support he got after the amputation of his right leg following a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. B.J. Ganem, a Marine who lost his left leg in Afghanistan, said all he saw was resilience. The two groups came together again later in 2013, at the New England Patriots home opener. They were honored on the field together before the game.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

“I like the idea of the amputees coming out on the field together,” Claude said. “It’s another way for people in the crowd to see the human spirit can’t be broken.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

World War II veteran will return to Normandy for first time since D-Day

The Greatest Generation is being lost to the unalterable process of aging. Today’s youngest World War II veteran is more than 90 years old, and fewer than 400,000 of the 16 million American’s who served still survive.

Drafted in 1943, Clifford Stump of the famed 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate his 95th birthday one week after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day he experienced firsthand, and will soon relive, as he returns to the shores of France for the first time since he fought there in 1944.

“We were 18, 19, 20-year-olds, we were tough, we knew everything,” says Stump as he recalled that infamous day. “But on D-day, we sobered up really quick to life.”


Stump was a U.S. Army Airborne artilleryman operating a ‘British 6 pounder’ as 156,000 allied troops landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious military assault in history. Stump fought in campaigns in France, Belgium, Germany and was part of the final push to Berlin in 1945.

Stump is a long-time VA North Texas Health Care System patient with an active fan base. When he visits Dallas VA Medical Center, Stump makes his rounds visiting with employees and his fellow veterans, schedules appointments, and regales many with stories of our Nation’s history from the first-person perspective.

Dallas WWII veteran to return to Normandy

www.youtube.com

“It’s humbling to get to know our veterans, to care for them, and most importantly, to learn from them,” says Lara Easterwood, Physician Assistant with VA North Texas’ Community Living Center.

On his most recent visit to the Dallas campus, Stump shared the news that he’ll soon travel to Normandy, France, to participate in 75th anniversary D-Day events in early June 2019. Stump will also re-visit other locations during the week-long trip–locations he last saw as a 20-year-old soldier, operating in support of his fellow soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.

“You think about all the buddies you made over there and you always have to keep them in mind,” said Stump. “I wanted to stay with them and you had to be ready to save them.”

Stump’s trip to Normandy, France and other battlefield locales he last visited 75 years ago is part of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and USAA’s support to honor 20th-century Veterans’ sacrifice before they pass.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat between Turkey and US-backed militias is getting ugly

The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.


Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.

Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
TFSA fighters on the top of Barsaya mountain, hoisting the Turkish and Syrian independence flag. (FSA)

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.

Also Read: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Map of the Turkish operation against Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.

SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.

Related: Turkey fought a proxy battle with the US in Syria this weekend

But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.

A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.

On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Barin Kobani. (YPG)

A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”

“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.

Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.

These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.

More: Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.

On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.

Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.

Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.

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Marine Corps approves first two women for infantry positions

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Female Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo my Sgt. Jennifer Jones


The U.S. Marine Corps is getting its first female rifleman and machine gunner later this year, service officials confirmed this week.

The two female enlisted Marines who have made lateral move requests to infantry jobs have been approved, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

The Marine who applied to be an 0311 rifleman was a lance corporal, an official confirmed. The rank of the Marine approved to be an 0331 machine gunner is not clear. Kulczewski said the Corps is now in the process of meeting staffing requirements at the units that will receive the Marines.

In keeping with a Defense Department mandate and the Corps’ own plan for integrating female troops into ground combat jobs, any infantry battalion with female members must also have a leadership cadre of at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers who have been at the unit for at least 90 days. Kulczewski said it’s likely the Marines will not join their new units until December of this year.

While the units that will get the first female grunts have been identified by the Marine Corps, Kulczewski said, they have not yet been publicly announced.

The Marines who applied for infantry jobs are part of a small group of 233 women who were granted infantry military occupational specialties earlier this year after passing the Corps’ enlisted infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, in order to participate in the service’s research on integrating women into the previously closed units. While all the women are eligible to apply for infantry jobs, only the two enlisted Marines have done so to date.

Kulczewski said a more senior female infantry captain had also applied for a lateral move to a newly opened unit, but the request was denied based on the staffing needs of the Marine Corps.

After the two Marines reach their new units, the service will continue to research their progress. Kulczewski said the Marine Corps had created a 25-year longitudinal study to “assess all aspects and possible impacts throughout implementation.”

The Corps’ implementation plan requires that the commandant be informed directly of certain developments as women enter all-male infantry units, including indications of decreased combat readiness or effectiveness; increased risk to Marines including incidents of sexual assault or hazing; indications of a lack of career viability for female Marines; indications of command climates or culture that is unreceptive to female Marines, and indications that morale or cohesion is being degraded in integrated units.

Officials are also rolling out new training beginning this month aimed at ensuring all Marines understand the changes taking place. Mobile training teams will spend the next two months visiting bases and offering two-day seminars to majors and lieutenant colonels that include principles of institutional change, discussions of “unconscious bias” and specifics of the Corps’ integration plan. These officers are then expected to communicate this information to their units.

“The Corps applauds the time and efforts of those Marines who volunteered. Request like these help the Marine Corps to continue the implementation of gender integration throughout all military occupational specialties,” Kulczewski said. “The continued success of the Marine Corps as our nation’s preeminent expeditionary force in readiness is based on a simple tenet: placing the best trained and most fully qualified Marine, our most valuable weapon, where they make the strongest contribution to the team.”

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Congress considers 3.1% military pay raise

A House Appropriations subcommittee on May 15, 2019, approved a fiscal 2020 defense funding bill that would cover the cost of a 3.1% military pay raise.

The bill, introduced May 14, 2019, by the House Appropriations Committee, would provide $690.2 billion for the Defense Department — $8 billion below President Donald Trump’s budget request, but $15.8 billion above the fiscal 2019 DoD budget. The $690.2 billion includes $68.1 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds, or OCO.

Under the legislation, active-duty end-strength would be trimmed: The proposal supports 1,337,500 troops, 600 fewer than are currently serving and 2,000 fewer than the administration’s request. It also would cut the reserve component by 16,900, the amount requested by the Pentagon.


On other personnel issues, the bill would provide .7 million to upgrade child care facilities on installations and direct the services to come up with “innovative ideas” to solve the shortage of quality child care services.

It also would provide 0 million for medical research programs directed by Congress and furnish 7 million for sexual-assault prevention and response, an increase of million above the administration’s request.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Soldiers load onto a Chinook helicopter to head out and execute missions across the Combined Joint Operations Area- Afghanistan.

(US Army photo)

“The subcommittee has sought throughout this legislative process to keep in mind the morale and quality of life of all our service members and their families. I believe we have taken tangible steps in this bill to refocus much-deserved attention on their issues of concern,” said Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Indiana, who chairs the subcommittee.

Several programs would be bolstered if the legislation passes as written — unlikely, given that it is one of four bills that ultimately guide future defense spending. However, large sections of it are expected to be included in the final measure, usually an amalgam that includes similar legislation from the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senate and House Armed Services Committees also weigh in with legislation that directs policy issues.

Programs that may see increases next year include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The proposed House bill would fund 90 F-35s, or a dozen more than the Pentagon’s request. It also would fund 73 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; 14 V-22 Osprey aircraft and 16 C-130J aircraft, four more of each than the services asked for; and nine P-8A Poseidons, three more than requested.

The bill would fund 11 ships, including three DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two SSN-774 attack submarines, one FFG frigate, a Ford-class aircraft carrier, two fleet oilers and two towing, salvage and rescue ships.

It also would pay for cannon and weapon stations for 86 Strykers and upgrade 165 M1A2 Abrams tanks.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

US Army M1A2 Abrams tank.

“The bill ensures that our service members are trained and equipped to do their jobs safely and effectively and that they are prepared for future military needs,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-New York, said in a statement May 15, 2019.

The proposed bill places a number of restrictions on the defense budget, including limiting how the executive branch and the Defense Department can move money in accounts. It limits the amount to id=”listicle-2637320945″.5 billion, down from .5 billion.

The change is a direct response to the Trump administration’s efforts to transfer money to fund a fence or wall along the southern border.

The bill also places an emphasis on environmental cleanup of military bases and former military sites, providing id=”listicle-2637320945″.26 billion — 8 million more than requested — for restoration, removal of unsafe property and debris, and hazardous waste disposal.

This includes million to study and assess the extent of contamination from chemicals used in firefighting foam and stain-resistant materials called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Russia just deployed the ‘Terminator’ to Syria, and you’ll be shocked to see what it can do

We just heard how the U.S. Army’s top general wants to put lasers, rail guns and all kinds of high-tech wizbangery on the service’s next-generation tank.


Sure, that sounds awesome. But let’s face it, those types of technologies built tough enough to be soldier-proof and deployed on a ground vehicle are still years off.

But what would happen if you slapped on a crap ton of totally badass weaponry that’s available today, wrapped it in some truly tough armor and gave it some go-anywhere treads?

Well, that’s what those mad scientists in Chelyabinsk (Russia’s main weapons development lab) did with the BMP-T “Terminator.” And by the looks of it, what trooper wouldn’t want this Mecha-esque death dealer backing him up during a ground assault.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
You don’t want to be at the other end of those 30 mike-mikes. (GIF created from Military & Space Archive YouTube)

This machine is festooned with about everything a ground-pounder could ask for, aside from a 125mm main gun. With two — count ’em — two side-by-side 30mm 2A42 autocannons, the Terminator can throw down up to 800 rounds of hate per minute out to 4,000 yards.

Take that Mr. Puny Bradley with your itty bitty 25mm chain gun…

Those 30 mike-mikes will take care of most ground threats for sure, but the Russians didn’t stop there. To blow up tanks and take down buildings and bunkers, the BMP-T is equipped with four launch tubes loaded with 130mm 9M120 “Ataka-T” anti-tank missiles. These missiles are capable of penetrating over two-feet of tank armor.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Anti-tank missile? Da. (GIF created from Military & Space Archive YouTube)

Enough badassery for one vic? No sir. The Terminator is also loaded with a secondary 7.62mm PKTM machine gun peeking out between the two 30mm cannons, and it’s got a pair of secondary, secondary 30mm grenade launchers just to add a little close in bang bang.

The Russians reportedly developed the BMP-T after its experience in Afghanistan and more recently in Chechnya, were the armor of a tank was needed in an urban fight, but with more maneuverability and better close-range armament than a tank gun.

Reports indicate the Terminator has been deployed to the anti-ISIS fight in Syria for field trials, but it’s unclear how many of these wheeled arsenals Moscow actually has in its inventory.

That said, the video below shows just how freaking full-on this infantry fighting vehicle is and the devastating punch it packs for bad guys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdOtHUp20Pk
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Former homeless spouse now aids others in same situation

An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.

When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.


“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.

Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.

The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.

“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.

In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.

The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.

Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.

“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.

Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.

The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.

Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.

One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.

“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.

To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran is just now feeling the sting of global terror

Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.

All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.


VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.

(Press TV)

A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.

Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.

In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.

Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.

Also: This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.

The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s Afghanistan war strategy faces grim challenges

The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.


The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.

The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.

American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Afghan National Army soldiers assault a building during their final training exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen.

The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.

Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.

Related: This is what the Afghans think of America’s new war plan

Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.

While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during the official UH-60 Black Hawk arrival ceremony, Oct. 7, 2017, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.

Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.

On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
General John Nicholson, Resolute Support commander, RS Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Jurgen Weigt, and RS Command Sergeant Major David M. Clark visit the blast site after the deadly attack on the German Embassy in Kabul. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Egdanis Torres Sierra.

Taliban resurgence

When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.

But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.

Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.

By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
More than 500 Afghan National Army soldiers stand in formation during the graduation of the 215th Corps’ Regional Military Training Center’s Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration training. DoD Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.

Read Also: This is how much it’s going to cost to send more troops to Afghanistan (Hint: It’s a lot)

Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”

He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.

“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.

“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.

Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.

Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)